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Senate committee backs Amtrak investment and improvement act


Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation voted 18-4 in favor of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2005 (S. 1516), which was introduced on Wednesday by Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Frank Lautenber (D-N.J.).

The committee’s vote "clearly signals that legislators are hearing, and responding positively to, the public’s call for more and better rail passenger service," said National Association of Railroad Passengers Executive Director Ross Capon in a prepared statement.

The six-year reauthorization bill would provide $11.4 billion for Amtrak through fiscal-year 2011 to maintain current operations, upgrade equipment and return the Northeast Corridor (NEC) to a state of good repair. It also includes funds to create a new grant program for states that want to add or improve intercity passenger-rail service.

The bill aims to reform the national passenger railroad, but also "financially support Amtrak so it can do its job," said Lott.

The bill would provide $3.3 billion for Amtrak operating costs, $4.9 billion in capital grants, $1.4 billion for state grants and $1.7 billion to eliminate debt. During the six-year period, Congress would reduce Amtrak’s operating subsidy 40 percent through cost-cutting, restructuring and reform measures, and increase capital funding.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/29/2005